Why Wait for OS 10.11? Use San Francisco System Font on OS Yosemite Now

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Apple apparently plans to replace Helvetica Neue, the current default system font in iOS and OS X, with the ‘San Francisco’ font used on Apple Watch, according to a new report from the well-regarded 9to5mac. The font change to “San Francisco” will apparently arrive in OS X 10.11 and iOS 9, but if you don’t want to wait for the next version of Mac OS, you can now adjust your OS X Yosemite system font to replace Helvetica Neue with San Francisco, and it looks a lot better than Comic Sans. Comic Sans aside, the San Francisco font actually looks pretty good, so if you are up for a change or if you want to get a feel for what the next version of OS X can bring to the UI, here’s how to get a sneak peak yourself.

Replacing the Helvetica Neue OS X Yosemite font with San Francisco is super easy to do and undo. You probably should backup of your Mac before doing this, although it’s unlikely that anything will go wrong in the process, it’s just good practice. Once you are supported up, here are the easy steps to change font on Mac in San Francisco:

  1. Download the SanFrancisco font package from github (direct link here) and extract the zip file
  2. From the OS X Finder, press Command + Shift + G to open Go to Folder and enter the following path:
  3. ~ / Library / Fonts /

  4. Drop the downloaded font files into ~ / Library / Fonts / and restart the Mac for the changes to take effect (you can also try logging out and logging back in, but sometimes fonts get weird gibberish if you don’t reboot)

When the Mac logs back in, you’ll see that Apple Watch’s new San Francisco font is the default system-wide font in OS X. Here’s a screenshot of what this looks like, via 9to5mac, click to enlarge:

San Francisco system font in use in OS X Yosemite

Deleting the fonts is as easy as navigating back to ~ / Library / Fonts / and moving all font files to a new folder, or generally moving them out of the ~ / Library / Fonts / folder, then restarting.

The thin Helvetica Neue font currently used in OS X and iOS has been somewhat controversial; some users find the font difficult to read, especially on non-retina displays. Apple later added a ‘bold fonts’ option to iOS that improved readability for those users, but such feature still missing in OS X Accessibility Options.

Before OS X Yosemite, OS X used Lucida Grande as the system font, which can also be used to replace the Helvetica Neue system font in Yosemite if desired (switching to Lucida Grande is my personal preference for the system font on the Mac).

For those on the iOS side of things, you have to wait for iOS 9 to come out to use the San Francisco font as there is no way to change system fonts on iPhone or iPad. Here’s a sneak peek at what that might look like on the iPhone, courtesy of 9to5mac:

iOS 9 mockup with San Francisco font

It’s worth pointing out that 9to5mac mentions that the system font change to the ‘San Francisco’ face in OS X 10.11 and iOS 9 can always be canceled or pushed back, so you may want to stick with these alternate font files in case you want to use them again in the future.

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Why Wait for OS X 10.11? How to Use the San Francisco System Font on OS X Yosemite Now: FAQ

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The time to complete the Why Wait for OS X 10.11? How to Use the San Francisco System Font on OS X Yosemite Now tutorial is 10+ minutes.

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mac OS


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